Fiat 500 L equipped with 650cc engine and DellOrto FZD 30/24 carburetor, Abarth tachometer, sport exhaust, 5 speed transmission with precision shift gate, sport handling package with coil over front shocks, pano sunroof, and a sport center console with Retrosound digital sound system.. Took 3rd place best in class Fiat/Abarth plus best Fiat 500 trophy in recent Concorso Italiano events in Monterey. A very collectible daily driver.
This Fiat 500 is on consignment in our San Francisco showroom, here are some words directly from it's current owner:
o I purchased a 126 engine and gearbox (to get the synchromesh) used from someone in the Toronto Fiat club who was importing them from Italy. It added some power but the bigger improvement was adding the DellOrto FZD 30/24. Joes Fiat in Redwood City did the installation and did a custom linkage and re-jetted to make the carburetor work. The inlet manifold was from www.500mania.it
and I found the carburetor on eBay new old stock from someone in Messina (Italy) for 400 Euro. The 30/24 matches the 650 engine better than the 32/28 according to forums and club posts. The excellent gas mileage suffers when you step on the gas but its a good tradeoff for example, on the first Snowball Rally I did with the new engine/carb, I was flooring it just to keep up with the pack on the way up the sierras and ran out of gas not figuring how much it was consuming. I calculated about 25 MPG that day. On the next day, the way down from the sierras, I was back in normal 65 MPG range A compromise of the 126 engine is that you have to lose the heater because the hot air return no longer lines up with the intake into the car from the engine. Small sacrifice and not a problem in San Francisco.
o To compensate for the new engine/carb running on the rich side despite the proper re-jetting, I installed an MSD ignition box giving a much better spark and eliminating the occasional foul plugs. A little known side effect is that the engine wont kill when the key is removed because the current finds its way around the switch on occasion so a separate kill switch was installed (this works also as an anti-theft device since its not labeled).
o I did some other cosmetics to the engine but none were necessary in my opinion like the aluminum valve cover and larger aluminum oil pan. I also put a catch can for the blow-by.
Transmission expensive but well worth it in my opinion. I got a rebuilt transmission with the 5 speed kit already built shipped from www.500mania.it
but I think they only sell the kit to do it yourself now. I had some trouble with the installation as they had made a mistake aligning the new 5th gear but with some trial and error they worked it out with Angelo Panari here in SF. The 5th gear is really just an overdrive but it makes a big difference by being able to cruise on the freeway at 65/70 MPH and still have a conversation or listen to the radio. With the 4 speed the RPMs would wind out at 5K before reaching 60 MPH. Also, the gate shifter they sell helps align the gears much better and I never grind them. Also the Flex disk joints on the end of the rear axles were upgraded to a CV joint-type kit and the axles are the larger diameter ones for reliability.
Upgrade suspension - The problem with the cross member and coil-over shocks is that the ride height is severely reduced and the set-up is more for a track with the camber pushed way out so that the inside tires wear out after 1,000 miles. To correct this issue, I had to get additional brackets to raise the upper part of the suspension arm and create some additional travel and neutralize the camber. Its still a rougher ride than stock but it does handle great
Interior the front seats are from a 126 as well and re-upholstered to match the original covers but with headrests and much more comfortable. The center console that houses the radio is aftermarket from 500mania as well but matches the interior perfectly as does the rear deck-lid that hides the speakers for the radio. The sound system could use some bigger speakers for better sound but given the space constraints its difficult to upgrade unless you want to cut into the side/door panels (which I didnt).
Brakes/wheels - I have a disc brake kit somewhere in Angelos garage as I used to have them on the car. While they stopped great, I had to take them off because they pushed the rim out too far creating clearance issues and also interfering with the stock rims on the inside. More importantly, when I nailed the brakes, the suspension isnt strong enough to keep the wheels straight and in line creating some unpredictable and dangerous stopping issues. I went back to the drum brakes and the car feels much safer with those. I also had the fender flares installed but I found the resin kind (vs fiberglass) which I like them because they are not exaggerated (2inch I believe). The rims are the stock 126 rim (just slightly wider than the fiat 500 rim) with the center tapped/drilled to fit the old hubcaps.
Origins and original condition I sold a 1958 US model (with the frog headlamps) Fiat 500 which I was trying to restore to buy the 71 500L mostly because of the back seat, the upgradeability and ease of finding new parts. I have owned the car for 12 years and bought it from someone who imports commercial pasta and espresso machines. He was also a classic car/moto collector and was importing a handful of 500s over in his shipping containers which had all been restored by a mechanic friend or relative of his in the Veneto area in Italy. The restoration wasnt show car grade but all the weather-stripping and rubber parts had been replaced as well as all the door, hood and trunk hardware. The outside bodywork, at the time I purchased it, showed a recent re-spray but no evidence of extensive rust or dent repairs. The inside seemed original color and not re-sprayed. I have also not made any rust or dent repairs during the time Ive owned it as it hasnt been a problem with the exception of a few small rust spots showing up on the lower parts of the doors in the last year. The car has been garaged in San Francisco the whole time Ive owned it so exposure to water has been limited to washing it and the rare outing in the rain.
Usage On average weve used it once or twice a week to get around town in San Francisco because its very easy to park. Ive also taken the car on vintage car rally/tours like the SnowBall Rally between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe each year for the past 7 or 8 years. In the beginning, with the smaller motor, I would trailer it to Sacramento but since I had the 650cc engine, DellOrto carburetor and 5 speed transmission installed, weve made the entire 700 mile weekend round trip with confidence (just a little crammed). I have also driven it the 240 mile weekend trip to the Concorso Italiano in Monterey each year (except this last one) for the past 5 years.
Repairs I have very little records/paperwork unfortunately but for the first few years I used to take it to Joes Fiat in Redwood City. Since then, Angelo Panari of Import Motor Service on 14th and South Vanness has serviced and repaired the car as necessary. Mostly to get ready for the vintage car rally/tours or to repair something that broke on the tour or to upgrade something that I purchased.
Extras not on the car I have a few bins with spares and parts I purchased over the years like extra headlights and lamps, entire unpainted front body panel, new unpainted front hood, lexan sliding roof, extra set of logotech sport rims, extra hubcaps, some cables and the Concorso Italiano prize ribbon for 3rd Place Best in Class Fiat/Abarth. I dont intend to give them away with the car as theyll be easy to sell on eBay, craigslist or swapmeets but if they can help firm up interest in the car they can be made available. The personalized license plate MITICA translates to legendary, by the way. I dont intend to keep that and am happy to transfer it to the new owner if theres interest.